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Florida's red tide outbreak could influence the outcome of hotly contested Senate race in 2018 midterms

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
October 15, 2018, 1:53:24 PM EDT

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Republicans and Democrats are trying to win over voters by using an environmental issue during the Florida Senate race.

The toxic algal bloom has been a hot topic with Floridians since November 2017, so politicians are spreading powerful campaign messages in hopes to sway voters.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson are using TV ads and speeches to point the finger at each other for who to blame the red tide algal bloom on.

The two are running a tightly contested race for Nelson's Senate seat with the midterm elections only several weeks away.

Rick Scott

Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, center, candidate for the U.S. Senate speaks to supporters at a campaign rally Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


The algae bloom is considered to be the worst and longest red tide outbreak in history, and officials say it will most likely last until 2019.

High concentrations of toxic algae, known as blooms, have affected the state's Gulf of Mexico coast since November 2017. Recently, red tide has spread to the state's eastern shores as well, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Officials say nearly 300 sea turtles have died because of the toxic bloom. Dolphins, pelicans, manatees and a whale shark have also washed ashore since this unprecedented bloom started.

Scott pointed the finger at Nelson first by running an ad explaining how Nelson was responsible for Lake Okeechobee and the historic red tide.

The ad blamed Nelson by explaining The Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the lake and is responsible for the algae bloom, is a federal entity.

“Washington politician Bill Nelson made a pledge 30 years ago to solve this problem, but Nelson’s a talker, not a doer. With Bill Nelson, we get more waiting, more talk, and more algae," the ad states, according to Floridapolitics.com.

A few days after the ad ran, the Nelson campaign punched back with an ad titled “Algae.” “Rick Scott cut environmental protections and gave polluters a pass,” the ad claims. “The water is murky, but the fact is clear.”

“I was playing nice-nice when I was here before, but I’m going to lay out the truth. Governor Scott, in the last eight years, has systematically dismembered and dismantled the environmental agencies of the state of Florida,” Nelson said, according to the New York Times.

Scott has been taking steps to save tourism, beaches and ocean by declaring a state of emergency for the ongoing toxic red tide bloom that is killing tons of marine life on the state’s west coast.

Red Tide, Dead Fish

Dead fish are shown near a boat ramp in Bradenton Beach, Fla. Collin O’Mara, the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, says he was stunned when he took a boat ride Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, to survey the effects of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. The toxic algae bloom has overrun Florida's southern Gulf Coast this summer. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)


“In addition to the emergency order, I am also directing a further $900,000 in grants for Lee County to clean up impacts related to red tide – bringing total red tide grant funding for Lee County to more than $1.3 million," Gov. Scott said.

"While we fight to learn more about this naturally-occurring phenomenon, we will continue to deploy all state resources and do everything possible to make sure that Gulf Coast residents are safe and area businesses can recover,” Scott said.

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The severity of this environmental issue may give Democrats a chance to win in Florida’s heavily Republican districts.

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